A process that began in earnest months ago is close to concluding, as the State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown have reached an agreement for a state budget — the major funding mechanism for the University of California and UCLA.
The UC budget request sought to:
• Improve student-to-faculty ratios, which have increased by 20 percent since 2010
• Address classroom infrastructure needs (itemized as “deferred maintenance”)
• Enroll and support 500 new graduate students and 500 new California undergraduates
• Improve mental health services for all students
Students joined the voices of faculty, staff and alumni advocacy. Without the necessary state investment, it was likely a tuition increase would be levied to cover the difference.
The preliminary budget deal includes a 3 percent permanent base budget increase and ongoing support for 500 new California undergraduate students.
However, the rest of the money coming to the UC is one-time funding:
• $107 million for Instructional Funds (to support enrolled students avert a tuition/student services fee increase, and increase faculty diversity)
• $6.7 million for Campus Life and Student Wellbeing (hunger-free initiatives, legal services for undocumented/immigrant students, anti-bias training)
• $35 million for Deferred Maintenance (campus repairs, renovations and replacements)
• $55 million for Health (graduate medical education and tele-psychiatric services)
The UC Office of the President commended the agreement: “The University of California is pleased that state government leaders appear to have reached an agreement to increase funding for the university in the 2018-19 fiscal year state budget that will allow UC to put off a tuition increase for California students and provide much needed funds for deferred maintenance. In addition, this still provisional budget agreement provides one-time funds to help support the record-high numbers of California students enrolled at the university. We look forward to continuing to partner with our elected leaders to secure ongoing funding that will ensure today’s students receive the same excellent UC education as did past generations.”
In other words, the majority of the UC’s higher education advocacy goals were met. To everyone who reached out in person or via phone, email, and social media — your message on the importance of a quality UC education was heard by state elected officials.
While the University will meet some of its objectives with this funding, without ongoing money earmarked for many of these issues, the UC will continue to face challenges growing enrollment (both undergraduate and graduate), supporting student success, and addressing critical infrastructure needs.
The budget debate will come around again next year, and it will again be up to higher education advocates to impress upon California officials that ongoing higher levels of funding are necessary to keep UC affordable, accessible and of the highest quality.